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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Jonathan Howcroft

State of Origin 2023 Game 2: Queensland Maroons 32-6 NSW Blues – as it happened

Queensland Maroons beat NSW Blues in Game 2 of the 2023 State of Origin to win the series. Follow live scores and updates from the Qld vs NSW game at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland Maroons beat NSW Blues in Game 2 of the 2023 State of Origin to win the series. Follow live scores and updates from the Qld vs NSW game at Suncorp Stadium. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


Thank you for joining me tonight for another demonstration of Queensland’s extraordinary ability to rise to the occasion in State of Origin. Three weeks ago they were underdogs heading to Adelaide to take on a star-studded NSW outfit. Tonight they arrived in Brisbane as favourites and played like champions.

Defensively they were extraordinary. Their line defence was near flawless. One-on-one they were rarely beaten, and if they were a covering tackle was close at hand. In broken play they were first to every loose ball.

And then in attack they were clinical. Chances were few and far between in South Australia, and again tonight the Maroons didn’t hog the ball or dominate field position. But when they saw an opportunity they went for the jugular and in Munster and Cherry-Evans they had a halfback pairing that controlled the ball masterfully in dangerous situations, and outside them Walsh was the series game-breaker, entering the line, creating space and timing killer passes.

After a second series defeat in succession it is hard to see Brad Fittler either wanting to stay on as NSW coach, or being invited to do so. On paper, the Blues should be the stronger of the two units, but over 160 minutes there was a desperate lack of wit and cutting edge in attack, while squad selections lacked the bravery and purpose of Billy Slater.

Fittler can point to the injuries to Mitchell, Cleary, and Trbojevic as mitigating factors, but they cannot mask the inability to match Queensland for intensity. In three weeks from now they will at least have a shot at redemption on Sydney soil, a night that, perhaps, will kickstart their Origin 2024 campaign.

I will be back here for that, and you’re welcome to join me. Until then, I will leave you with Angus Fontaine’s match report and Queensland’s celebrations. Goodnight!

NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler and Qld Maroons coach Billy Slater
A tale of two Origin coaches. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


The Queensland players are lapping it all up, some carrying their children, others in the stands with family members. These are the moments they will remember for ever.

Queensland celebrate winning State of Origin 2023
Queensland celebrate winning State of Origin 2023. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


Player of the Match - Lindsay Collins

The big prop gets the nod on the night for a performance that set the tone for the Maroons, in defence and attack. Too quick, too strong, and too hungry for the Blues to handle.

This is what dreams are made of. This is what you do in the backyard growing up as a little kid, imagining this moment, and for it to be a reality, it’s very, very special.

I think there’ll be a few sickies tomorrow.

Reece Walsh, who has cemented his status as the most exciting young fullback in the game, is bubbling with delight.

Obviously, the crowd at home, up here winning at Suncorp, this is our back yard. This is our home. We come to represent our people. It was an awesome game. We wouldn’t be here without the fans. A special group, awesome coach and, you know, we really got the job done there tonight.

It’s crazy. It’s a brotherhood. You know, since day one we went into camp, and we all just gelled. The coaching staff are out of this world. Just amazed in this group, with these boys, we’ve got a saying Ubuntu, it’s all stick together and do it for each other, not for yourself. Queensland should be proud tonight.

Reece Walsh is tackled
Reece Walsh was a dominant force in game two. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images


Daly Cherry-Evans, who was outstanding tonight, is first at the mic to share the moment with former Queensland captain Darren Lockyer.

It’s our ability to defend our try line this series that got us the results both games. We should be really proud of the way we’ve defended. I think the scoreboard reflected tonight the sort of footy we can play.

Daly Cherry-Evans and Reece Walsh celebrate with teammates after full time
Daly Cherry-Evans and Reece Walsh lap up the win. Photograph: Darren England/AAP


The final couple of minutes were unsavoury but that does not prevent Queensland celebrating a classic night of Origin footy at Suncorp Stadium.

Referee sends off Reece Walsh and talks to Daly Cherry-Evans
Reece Walsh is sent off by referee Ashley Klein. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images


Full-time: Queensland 32-6 NSW

Queensland are State of Origin champions for 2023!

Murray Taulagi and Reuben Cotter celebrate with their maroons teammates
Murray Taulagi and Reuben Cotter celebrate securing the series for the Maroons. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images


Red Cards (Walsh & Luai)

80 mins: In that same melee, Walsh and Luai aimed head-butts at each other, each receiving their marching orders for their troubles. So unnecessary.

Jarome Luai and Reece Walsh butt heads
Jarome Luai and Reece Walsh clash in the final minutes. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images


Yellow Card (Addo-Carr)

80 mins: Tempers have frayed in the final seconds. Addo-Carr has thrown a punch at Walsh, who was head-to-head with Luai in an exchange of words, and he is rightly sent to the bin. Stupid act.

77 mins: Fa’asuamaleaui interrupts Yeo’s run, reverses the momentum, picks up the big Panther, dumps him on his backside, and dislodges the ball in the process. It’s been that kind of night. That kind of series.

Isaah Yeo runs with the ball
Isaah Yeo makes a short-lived run. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


76 mins: This has been some series from the Maroons. They have absorbed so much NSW pressure across the two matches, but they have done so with such defensive skill, discipline, and grit. And they’ve scored with practically every serious attack they’ve mounted.

Reece Walsh runs with the ball
Reece Walsh makes a break. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images


TRY! Queensland 32-6 NSW (Nanai, 75)

Queensland are giving their supporters their money’s worth. Instead of walking down the last ten minutes they’re flinging the ball from right to left, conceding metres in the process to keep the ball alive. Of course, it doesn’t matter, because on the last Munster hoists up a Garryowen that Cook is once again exactly the man NSW don’t want to be under the ball. He initially marks but loses the ball mid-air in contact with teammate Addo-Carr. Nanai is first to the loose ball to send the score into the 30s.

Holmes kicks another two to rub salt in the NSW wounds.

Jeremiah Nanai scores a try
Jeremiah Nanai scores a try. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images


74 mins: Moses, who began the night promisingly, has seen his performance deteriorate, and it reaches a new low with an awful play-the-ball that only looks more embarrassing during a NSW captain’s challenge.

Blues players looking sad
There has been no respite for the Blues. Photograph: Darren England/AAP


73 mins: The crowd is 52,433 by the way. Most of them deliriously happy with what they’ve seen.

Stephen Crichton looks dejected
Stephen Crichton reflects the NSW mood. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images


72 mins: An overcooked Moses kick from range allows Queensland another opportunity to settle things down, milk the clock, and take the sting out of the game. The crowd break out into cries of “Queenslander!”.

The Maroons and their fans celebrate
The Maroons and their fans celebrate their dominating performance. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


71 mins: Queensland utilise their captain’s challenge to see whether Tabuai-Fidow should have been penalised for a knock-on during the kick chase. It was a forlorn effort, but succeeded in allowing the Maroons to catch their breath and slow the game down. The value of that breather is shown immediately with Haas dumped unceremoniously deep in his own half.

68 mins: NSW earn a scrum from the restart, then earn a ruck penalty under the posts. Can the Blues mount a late fightback? No. Young drops the ball on the burst on tackle two. This series has been an attacking disaster for Brad Fittler.

TRY! Queensland 26-6 NSW (Coates, 65)

The short drop-out is claimed by Tabuai-Fidow. Soon afterwards Yeo concedes a penalty at the ruck but Queensland reject the kick for goal and instead invite their forwards to pound the NSW defensive line. For a while anyway, this is Queensland after all, and eventually they’re going to want to score a try. The halves get the ball under the posts – and there’s that move again – the delayed pass to Walsh, the incredible strength and ball skills of the young fulback to release Coates on the outside, and he flys like superman to touch the ball down one-handed in the corner. Simply magnificent.

Holmes dots the i’s by crossing the t from the touchline.

Xavier Coates scores a try
Xavier Coates scores. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images


63 mins: NSW have the bit between their teeth now. Tedesco finds a step, Moses accepts contact, there’s finally some urgency and invention – but still Queensland find a miracle! Collins again, showing his alertness to block the attempted grubber, then pounce on the loose ball and run it away from danger. Four tackles later, Munster dabs a perfectly weighted kick to force Cook into conceding a line drop-out.

60 mins: Now the Blues come! First they look to expand early in the set, finding space for To’o on the right, then they hammer Walsh as he collects Moses’ bomb before setting about a series of ball carriers, threatening to drag Coates into touch before he offloads smartly. It takes a barnstorming run from Collins to settle things down for the home side. But the respite doesn’t last long when that man Collins is pinged for going high on Luai early in the NSW set.

Payne Haas runs with the ball
Payne Haas runs the ball. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images


TRY! Queensland 20-6 NSW (Cook, 58)

Well, well, well. After all that’s happened tonight, Damien Cook might be the man to spark a comeback. It arrives following the first penetrating run of the night from a man in blue – Young bursting on to a slick short pass from Luai. Queensland scramble to bring the forward down, but Cook is on hand for the offload to dash under the posts like he’s sniping from dummy-half – not playing 75 minutes as a left centre.

Crichton kicks the easy two points.

The Blues celebrate
The Blues celebrate Damien Cook’s try. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP
Damien Cook
Damien Cook came on early in the game for the injured Tom Trbojevic. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images


57 mins: NSW spend four tackles doing nothing inside 10m before a pass goes astray to create some unintentional penetration in broken play. Moses finally kicks to the right corner, Crichton does well in the air, but it’s a Queenslander on the spot at ground level. This is up there with the best defensive performances I have ever seen.

55 mins: Luai almost goes by himself, picking up the ball in broken play following a Moses bomb, jinking one way, then the other, before Walsh eventually brings him down. NSW use up their captain’s challenge shortly afterwards, claiming unsuccessfully that Holmes knocked the ball on following the bomb. However, in the process of the review, Walsh’s last ditch challenge on Luai is ruled high, so NSW retain the ball. “That’s embarrassing,” bemoans Andrew Johns. It was around the neck mind you …

Jarome Luai is tackled by Reece Walsh
Jarome Luai is tackled by Reece Walsh. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


53 mins: Munster’s marshalling of that Queensland try was brilliant. Repeatedly steering play to the left edge until the space opened up for Taulagi to exploit. His halfback pairing with Cherry-Evans will go down in Origin history.

TRY! Queensland 20-0 NSW (Tabuai-Fidow, 51)

I mean, it’s funny. How on earth do they absorb so much pressure and then score in one hit? A solid set from their own line turns into something miraculous on the last when Taulagi plays on, kicks infield and the bounce sets up perfectly for Tabuai-Fidow to gather and touch down. Incredible.

Holmes hits an upright for the second time tonight. Not that it matters much any more.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow scores a try
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow scores a try to give Queensland a commanding lead. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images


49 mins: Now the Blues come. From a tackle restart 30m out Yeo, Robson and Martin, all bust the line. Crichton almost gets free on the right. But everywhere they move there’s a Maroon jersey waiting to pounce. Another set restart! The ball moves from right to left, the weight of territory and possession surely has to count – but no! For the umpteenth time the ball ends up out of sync as it’s throw to the left – Cook’s centre – and Addo-Carr watches the ball bobble into touch. Superb defence from Queensland, woeful attack from NSW.

47 mins: A poor DCE kick allows To’o to set up NSW on halfway. But yet again five tackles pass quickly with no imagination or wit. The kick is tidy enough but Holmes does wonderfully in the air to defuse the bomb. The Blues defend well to deny Queensland any cheap metres coming out of defence, but they’re going to need to offer much more with ball in hand to rescue this.

45 mins: New South Wales need a miracle in enemy territory. And it’s hard to see where it’s going to come from.

Brian To'o passes the ball
Brian To'o of the Blues. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images


TRY! Queensland 16-0 NSW (Holmes, 43)

Not that it matters for long. Just as they have all series Queensland only need a glimpse of the line to convert it into a score. The ball moves around at speed until there’s room on the right. The Maroons don’t panic, DCE double pumps, Walsh unloads in contact, and Holmes has the space to dive over in the corner.

The prolific points scorer picks himself up, dusts himself down, and spanks over a touchline conversion to extend his side’s commanding lead.

Valentine Holmes scores another try
Valentine Holmes scores another try. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Holmes celebrates scoring a try
Holmes has been prolific. Photograph: Darren England/AAP


42 mins: Cotter and Fifita set the tone on the opening set for the Maroons. Grant then makes a burst to build the momentum. Munster launches a bomb Tabuai-Fidow plucks it out of the sky but To’o tackles the Hammer almost immediately. Queensland back into their work. And how! NSW turn in s straightforward set that ends with Walsh fielding a bomb, bouncing out of mid-air contact, wriggling through a series of tackles and into open space before Tedesco just hauls him down!

Queensland run off the line at the start of the second half
Queensland are in command of game two. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images


The teams are back out for the second half. Can NSW mount a comeback?

Johnathan Thurston shouting
Not if Maroons assistant coach Johnathan Thurston has anything to say about it. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


Here’s the DCE chase on Crichton that turned into a 10 or 12 point play. He saves at least four points with his tackle, one that immediately precedes his line break to set up Queensland’s second try.

NSW had more possession, more completions, more passes, more offloads… and rarely looked threatening. It’s like Origin I all over again. To make matters worse, when the Blues did penetrate the ball followed makeshift centre Damien Cook like a magnet and he was repeatedly the wrong man at the wrong time.

In case you’ve joined late, Cook has been pressganged into the backline after Trbojevic was forced off in the opening exchanges with a serious pec injury. Brad Fittler’s decision not to retain Nicho Hynes in his 17 is already beginning to look like a mistake.

James Hewer has emailed in, questioning Queensland’s second try. And I have to agree that Fifita’s pass to Tabuai-Fidow looks forward to my poorly trained eyes. Have a look below, make your own call.

Half-time: Queensland 10-0 NSW

The Maroons have been on the back foot for much of the half, but they are now just 40 minutes away from an Origin series victory.

Queensland supporters in the stands
Queensland supporters have had plenty to cheer about. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


39 mins: NSW should have one set in their own half before the break, but they benefit from a dangerous tackle and kick long downfield for one final assault for the half. Five tackles come and go in the shadow of the posts but there is zero penetration. On the last there’s a set restart – which just means two more ineffective tackles before the hooter. Queensland’s defence is phenomenal.

37 mins: Queensland go through hands on halfway but Walsh grasses the seventh or eighth pass in the move and NSW mop up. Again, it’s a moderate set, and it ends in ignominy with Collins wrapping Luai in a mighty pile-driving bear hug that dislodges the ball and brings Suncorp Stadium alive.

35 mins: What an extraordinary couple of minutes for Daly Cherry-Evans. His tackle save on Crichton will be on Origin highlights reels for decades, then he made the line break to create his side’s second try. Such a big game player. Going the other way, Damien Cook just cannot believe his predicament.

TRY! Queensland 10-0 NSW (Taulagi, 34)

After all that pressure from NSW, what do Queensland do? Carrigan makes a bust, DCE powers through the gap, and a tackle later the ball is shifted from right to left for Taulagi to complete the formalities. How do they do it? How do they always do it?

Holmes makes the simple conversion.

Murray Taulagi
Murray Taulagi celebrates his try. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images


30 mins: The Maroons get just what they want with a set restart on halfway. Defence is now very much attack with DCE and Munster darting around behind the ruck. On the last the kick is smothered and Crichton is away! Can he make it 90 metres for the try!? Queenslanders are coming from all angles to chase! It’s a thrilling foot-race – and Cherry-Evans makes the desperate tackle! Wow. But NSW are not finished. They have a full set 20 metres out. There’s so much space on the left against a tired Queensland defence – but the ball doesn’t get there fast enough and the Maroons recover. They keep coming through – and now there’s space again on the left, surely this time, no! The pass from Luai hits Cook in the face! Oh no! This is nightmare stuff for NSW.

Jarome Luai
Jarome Luai. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


28 mins: NSW are pushing hard now! Little happened for five tackles, but on the last a poor Moses chip bounced back into Blue hands and drew a knock-on for a repeat set in the red zone. After steering everything down the left NSW look to the right and as Moses feeds Tedesco there’s room for To’o on the outside – but Taulagi flies out of the line to pressure the NSW skipper and his pass misses its target. That was a long long intense spell of pressure and Queensland emerge unscathed.

27 mins: Finally some respite! After a long long period of unbroken play – largely dominated by NSW – there’s a ruck infringement against Queensland after a long kick-chase, and everyone has a second to catch their breath.

26 mins: The Blues continue to probe. Crichton goes close, then there’s an overlap on the left – can they find it? No! Cook is the wrong man in the left centre and he’s crunched by a gang of Queenslanders when you’d have to think a fit Mitchell would have handed a try on a plate to Addo-Carr.

25 mins: That’s almost the moment of magic NSW need! Moses, on tackle one, spots Walsh out of position and chips and chases his own ball. Munster gets back to concede the drop-out just in time. Moses does not look overawed by the occasion.

24 mins: Wallop! Martin and Young absolutely pummel Coates a split-second after he fields the high ball. Munster’s then dumped in a tackle as the Blues push – but Nanai breaks the line and can launch a counter… but he bites off more than he can chew with a flick pass out of contact that’s too hot for Coates and NSW are back in attack.

22 mins: Moses has impressed me so far, looking to attack on the front foot, shaping to run whenever he receives the ball, buying him yards to finesse his kicks. There’s been no magic yet though with the Blues content to grind through the sets and bide their time.

Mitchell Moses getting tackled
Mitchell Moses pushes past Maroons players. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images


20 mins: NSW continue to enjoy good field position but they have yet to profit from Moses’s boot. His latest effort, high to the right, is won in the air by Crichton, but Fa’asuamaleaui is first to crumb the loose ball at ground level. The pace and flow of this contest is of a much higher intensity than Origin I. Already plenty of players look gassed.

18 mins: Superb defence from the Queensland line! NSW had A1 attacking position but time and again the Maroons not only won the one-on-one challenge but they did so with interest. Eventually, the grubber is secured by Munster who finds 10 metres from a crowded in-goal area to run the ball clear.


16 mins: Another massive DCE boot sets up a terrific chase at the end of a set highlighted by Fa’asuamaleaui and Frizell getting to know each other better. The Blues move the ball incrementally downfield for four tackles, then there’s some pathetic handbags at the ruck involving Flegler – and he concedes a dreadfully soft un-Origin penalty to invite the Blues onto attack.

14 mins: The Maroons are getting momentum with every set, and the kicking game is on point, looking for long early punts downfield to turn Tedesco and his wingers on their heel, inviting punishing chases.

12 mins: Nightmare start for NSW, losing an early try and Trbojevic. Damien Cook, normally a hooker, will have to play 75 minutes as a left centre. And Queensland are not letting them breathe easy, Munster almost nailing a 40-20.

TRY! Queensland 4-0 NSW (Holmes, 10)

Queensland make ground every tackle of the set following Luai’s poor kick, and by the last Cherry-Evans has time to loft a short iron to the right corner. The ball spills off fingers, hits the deck, and a Maroon jersey lands on the loose pill for an opportunistic try! Or is it? Ashley Klein reckons Coates knocked on in the aerial contest with Addo-Carr, so we’re going to the Bunker. Replay after replay is indeterminate until an angle is found to call the play on. Try time! Or is it? Valentine Holmes’s finish isn’t pretty. Was it a knock-on? No! Another line-ball call goes Queensland’s way and the home side hit the front!

Holmes clips the outside of the post with his conversion attempt from the right touchline.

Valentine Holmes scores a try
Valentine Holmes scores a try early during game two. Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images


8 mins: The second penalty of the night goes the way of NSW after Munster is pinged for slowing down Crichton at the ruck. That turns a set from their line to a territory-builder from halfway for the Blues. But it’s a set that lacks penetration, especially when Robson is fortunate not to knock on a fumble. Moses has looked bright early on and his dart from dummy half allows Luai to grubber from close range, but he overcooks and the balls dribbles dead.

Confirmation Tom Trbojevic is out for the night with a pec injury.

6 mins: Following that early burst both teams exchange midfield sets before To’o hammers into the Maroon line – and Cotter in particular - to create some go-forward. That sets up Moses to bomb from 40m out. His kick is allowed to bounce, but Queensland mop up.

4 mins: Queensland waste no time going through their repertoire, from left wing to right for a tackle, then back to the left where the Maroons have a glimmer out wide but Taulagi can’t get into the corner. In desperation Trbojevic has done himself a serious mischief! Is it a dislocated shoulder – or worse? Either way, it looks as though Turbo is done for the night and Damien Cook is on in the centres.

Tom Trbojevic on the ground injured
Tom Trbojevic is out early with a pec injury. Photograph: Darren England/AAP


2 mins: Paulo, To’o, Haas, Young and Tedesco all hit the line hard for NSW but Moses is forced to launch his first kick from inside his own half. Queensland make little ground for three tackles but Fifita makes his presence known on tackle four and Trbojevic coughs up a soft penalty at the ruck. The Maroons on the attack early.


Origin II is underway. The Blues receive Reece Walsh’s kick-off. Can they keep the series alive at fortress Suncorp?

The pre-match formalities have been taken care of. On with the footy …

NSW players in a line during the anthem
The Blues line up during before game two. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP
Maroons stand for the anthem
Maroons stand for the anthem. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


And now the home side, top to toe in Maroon, like most of the 50-odd thousand Queenslanders inside Suncorp Stadium.

Reece Walsh leads other maroons on to the pitch
Reece Walsh runs out with the Maroons. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


First out on to the arena are the Blues, led by James Tedesco, and they are met with a cacophony of boos and catcalls. The Blues are more recognisable tonight in their sky blue uniform after Origin one’s navy affair.

Blues fans cheer in the stands
Of course, not everyone was booing. Photograph: Darren England/AAP


Wally Lewis and Darren Lockyer emerge from the gloom to parade the State of Origin shield. We are the Champions gets an airing on the PA system. Queensland relishing the opportunity to showcase their status. Could it be hubris?


The lights are down at Suncorp Stadium. The two teams are going through their final drills in the sheds. We’ll be underway in about ten minutes.

Just enough time before kick-off for this nice read from Gavin Willacy about the growth of rugby league Stateside.

The NRL’s priority in the US seems to be more about cashing in on gambling revenue with no mention yet of developing the local game.

Have you ever seen Succession’s Roman Roy and Queensland’s Cameron Munster in the same room at the same time?

“Can anything upstage what happened on day five of the Ashes last night?” wonders David Ritchie. I doubt it, but hopefully there’s more action in the 8-10pm region than we saw through the Birmingham rain yesterday!

Gideon Suvio is tuning in from PNG and he wants to wish the Blues all the best for tonight’s game.

Series referee Ashley Klein had plenty of whistleblowing to do in South Australia. Hopefully tonight the two sets of players allow the game to flow.

Ashley Klein and James Tedesco
Referee Ashley Klein speaks to James Tedesco of the Blues during game one of the 2023 State of Origin series. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

It’s cool and dry and still in Brisbane this evening. In other words, perfect rugby league playing conditions.

Queensland State of Origin supporters
Queensland, beautiful one day, perfect the next. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

You’re not imagining it, Queensland do tend to win when its tight.

Queensland have a success rate of 51% in Origin games decided by seven points or more, but that jumps to 59% in games decided by six points or fewer. With nearly half of the 126 Origin games decided by these small margins, the Maroons’ ability to clinch tight games is a key reason for their dominance.

Do the Maroons have a game two hoodoo?

They haven’t won the second match of an Origin series since 2017. Extended further, it’s nine defeats in the past 12 round two encounters.

However, the Blues have only once won game two at Suncorp after losing the series opener, and Queensland have won eight of the past 10 Origin clashes at their HQ.



Brad Fittler was forced into a huge decision when Nathan Cleary’s hamstring pinged, and he has overlooked the merits of Dally M medallist Nicho Hynes and Suncorp specialist Adam Reynolds in favour of Eels halfback Mitchell Moses. Hynes misses the squad altogether, making way for Reece Robson to offer more versatility in the pack off the bench. He will dovetail at hooker with the recalled Damien Cook. Cameron Murray and Liam Martin were under injury clouds in the build up but both have been passed fit.

Fittler is backing his Blues to rebound from their disappointment in Adelaide, especially skipper James Tedesco who was shown up by Roosters clubmate Lindsay Collins late on. “I think the moment at the end of the game was most probably embarrassing for him and embarrassment is a pretty good motivator,” Fittler said.

NSW: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Brian To’o, 3 Stephen Crichton, 4 Tom Trbojevic, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 Jarome Luai, 7 Mitchell Moses, 8 Junior Paulo, 17 Reece Robson, 10 Payne Haas, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Hudson Young, 13 Isaah Yeo

Interchange: 14 Stefano Utoikamanu, 15 Cameron Murray, 16 Liam Martin, 9 Damien Cook

IN: Mitchell Moses, Damien Cook, Stefano Utoikamanu, Reece Robson
OUT: Nathan Cleary, Tevita Pangai Junior, Api Koroisau, Nicho Hynes

Reece Robson, Stefano Utoikamanu, Mitchell Moses and Damien Cook
Four fresh faces in the NSW 17. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP


Queensland XVII

Billy Slater has been forced into three changes due to injury. In the pack, Jai Arrow and Tom Gilbert are replaced by Jeremiah Nanai and Moeaki Fotuaika, while out wide Xavier Coates comes in for Selwyn Cobbo.

“We have had to make a few changes through injury, so it’s not as if we are just rolling out the same side again,” Slater said during the week. “We have got the new boys up to speed and we’ve just tried to apply ourselves at training. It’s been a good week.”

Queensland: 1 Reece Walsh, 2 Xavier Coates, 3 Valentine Holmes, 4 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, 5 Murray Taulagi, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Daly Cherry-Evans, 15 Tom Flegler, 9 Ben Hunt, 10 Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, 11 David Fifita, 16 Reuben Cotter, 13 Pat Carrigan.

Interchange: 14 Harry Grant, 8 Lindsay Collins, 12 Jeremiah Nanai, 17 Moeaki Fotuaika

IN: Moeaki Fotuaika, Jeremiah Nanai, Xavier Coates
Out: Jai Arrow, Selwyn Cobbo, Tom Gilbert

Jeremiah Nanai
Jeremiah Nanai returns to the heat of Origin battle. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

As Nick Tedeschi writes, tonight’s clash could be the defining game in Brad Fittler’s coaching career.

The Blues have started favourites in every one of Fittler’s games since he took over in 2018, yet the coach is 8-8 over that time with two series losses. He has been strongly criticised for some questionable selections decisions – Josh Addo-Carr’s omission in 2022 was widely disparaged – and admitted prior to this year’s series opener that he was taking some unnecessary risks. Those risks did not pay off.


Hello everybody and welcome to live coverage of State of Origin Game 2 between Queensland’s Maroons and New South Wales’s Blues. Kick-off at Suncorp Stadium is not before 8.05pm (AEST).

Three weeks ago the Maroons did what the Maroons do and demonstrate that Queensland is not a place but a state of mind. Unfancied and outplayed for much of Origin I, Billy Slater’s mob turned it on when it mattered to take a series lead to fortress Suncorp.

The narrative since Adelaide has been all about the Blues. NSW selection, strategy, and execution have all been questioned. Why have so many key players underperformed so often? How do they fail repeatedly to get over the line when it matters? Whereto now for Brad Fittler?

Changes were demanded of the Blues but Fittler’s plans have been thrown into disarray with two cruel injury blows. Halfback Nathan Cleary has been ruled out of the remainder of the series with a hamstring injury, while Latrell Mitchell, the man expected to provide the spark, has not yet fully recovered from the complaint that ruled him out of the series opener. In their own ways each are impossible to replace and not what Fittler needed heading to a venue where his side has lost twice as much as it has won.

Queensland are not without their own issues, but they have not come with the same psychodrama. The risk for the Maroons tonight is how they cope with the unfamiliar status of favourites – expected to seal a third series in four years – when their trademark footy has emerged with their backs against the wall.

If you want to get in touch at any point you can always send me an email or pop a tweet to @JPHowcroft. On with the show.

Wally Lewis statue
You come at the king, you best not miss. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
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